Jean Pitre & Marie Pesseley
Jean Pitre appeared in only the 1671, 1678 and 1686 censuses at Port Royal, Acadia. He is reported as being 35 in the first census which would put his birth at around 1636. His wife was Marie Pesseley, born c1645, the youngest child of Isaac Pesseley and Barbe Bajolet, both French. Going by Marie’s age and the ages of the children in the 1671 census, she and Jean were probably married at Port Royal c1665.
Marie's parents had arrived in Acadia around 30 years earlier, but her mother returned to France after her father was killed on 16 April 1645 in the attack on Fort St. Jean. It is unknown if Marie was born in Acadia or if she was born after her mother had returned to France, but her grandson Claude Marc's declaration at Belle-Ile-en-Mer claimed Paris as her birthplace. After being widowed twice more, Barbe Bajolet, and certainly her two youngest children Marie Pesseley and Marie Anne Lefebvre, returned to Port Royal in 1661.
Jean Pitre's occupation was listed as taillandier, which translates most closely as an edge-tool maker. He had no land and only one cow in the 1671 census, so the assumption is that he made his living providing sharpened tools for others. By 1678 he had two cows and two arpents of land under cultivation.
The 1686 census listed his growing family of seven children who were still living with them, while the two eldest daughters had married and were settled nearby with their husbands.
With the youngest child Jeanne born c1688, Jean Pitre probably died c1689 at the age of about 53. Widow Marie was only 44 with eight children and quickly remarried to Francois Robin c1690 and together they raised the remaining minor children. The Pitre children married into Amireau, Bertrand, Comeau, Henry, Brun, Babin, Prejean, and Piat.
Family of Jean Pitre & Marie Pesseley
1 Jean Pitre b: Abt. 1636 "d'origine flamande"; d: Abt. 1689 Port Royal, Acadia
+Marie Pesseley b: Abt. 1645 Port Royal, Acadia; m: Abt. 1665 Port Royal, Acadia [Isaac/Barbe Bajolet]; d: 26 December 1707 Port Royal, Acadia
2 Marie Pitre b: Abt. 1666 Port Royal, Acadia; d: Aft. 1726
+Francois Amireau dit Tourangeau b: Abt. 1644; m: Abt. 1683 Port Royal, Acadia; d: Aft. 1726
2 Catherine Pitre b: Abt. 1668 Port Royal, Acadia; d: Bet. 1706 - 1714 Acadia
+Claude Bertrand b: Abt. 1651; m: Abt. 1685 Port Royal, Acadia; d: Abt. 1726 Acadia
2 Claude Pitre b: Abt. February 1671 Port Royal, Acadia; d: Bet. 1729 - 1750 Port Royal, Acadia
+Marie Anne Comeau b: Abt. 1678 Acadia; m: Abt. 1696 Port Royal, Acadia [Pierre/Jeanne Bourg]; d: 9 July 1707 Port Royal, Acadia
*2nd Wife of Claude Pitre:
+Anne (Jeanne) Henry b: Abt. 1688 Mines, Acadia; m: 17 February 1710 Port Royal, Acadia [Robert/Marie Madeleine Godin]; d: 29 November 1757 Hospital general, Quebec
2 Marc Pitre b: Abt. 1673 Port Royal, Acadia; d: Aft. 1714
+Jeanne Brun b: Abt. 1676 Port Royal, Acadia; m: Abt. 1699 Acadia [Sebastien/Huguette Bourg]; d: Aft. 1714
2 infant Pitre b: Abt. 1675 Port Royal, Acadia; d: Aft. 1678 Port Royal, Acadia
2 Pierre Pitre b: Abt. 1677 Port Royal, Acadia; d: Aft. 1700
2 Jean Denis Pitre b: Abt. 1680 Port Royal, Acadia; d: Aft. 1724
+Francoise Babin b: Abt. 1681 Port Royal, Acadia; m: Abt. 1698 Port Royal, Acadia [Antoine/Marie Mercier]; d: Aft. 1724
2 Francois Pitre b: Abt. 1682 Port Royal, Acadia; d: 5 December 1725 Port Royal, Acadia
+Anne Prejean b: Abt. 1687 Port Royal, Acadia; m: 27 July 1705 Port Royal, Acadia [Jean/Andree Savoie]
2 Marguerite Pitre b: Abt. 1683 Port Royal, Acadia; d: 12 July 1747 Port Royal, Acadia
+Abraham Comeau b: Abt. 1680 Port Royal, Acadia; m: Abt. 1701 Port Royal, Acadia [Pierre/Jeanne Bourg]; d: Aft. 1739
2 Jeanne Pitre b: Abt. December 1685 Port Royal, Acadia
+Jean Pierre Piat dit La Bonte b: Abt. 1671; m: Abt. 1701 Acadia
2 Jeanne Pitre b: Abt. 1688 Port Royal, Acadia; d: Aft. 1707
For the remainder of the Pitre Descendant Tree there are links from the four married sons. The tree continues in the same style. Anyone with a two in front of their name is a child of Jean & Marie, a three indicates a grandchild and so forth. The descendants of each of the four sons generally settled in different areas. Though the geographic pointers are not absolutes, as a guide for where to start, select:
* Claude Pitre : Alberta, California, Connecticut; Illinois, Iowa, Louisiana (St. Landry areas); Maine; Maryland, Massachusetts; Michigan; Minnesota; Nebraska, New Hampshire, New York; North Dakota; Ontario; Oregon; Quebec (Beauharnois, Chateauguay, Montreal), Saskatchewan; Vermont, Washington; other spellings include Cayen, Lajambe, Lashomb, Legembre, Peat, Peet, Peete, Peets, Pete, Peters, Peterson.
* Marc Pitre : Prince Edward Island; Quebec (Matapedia); New Brunswick; France; Louisiana (Pointe Coupee); Maine, Massachusetts; other spellings include Peters
* Jean Denis Pitre : Louisiana (Lafourche, Terrebonne, St. Mary areas, New Orleans), Texas, Nova Scotia
* Francois Pitre : Illinois, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, New Brunswick, New Hampshire, New York, Ohio, Ontario (Russell), Quebec (Nicolet), Saskatchewan, Vermont, Washington, Wisconsin; other spellings include Lepitre, Lapete, Peters, Petry.
Their lives in context
Even though the English controlled the colony during the 1650's and 1660's, they didn't make much of an impact. During this period Acadia had much more contact with New England than with France. In the early years of Jean and Marie's marriage France again regained control (1667), even though they had decided not to send more colonists to the New World (1666).
France regained official control in 1670 and during the next 20 years of Jean and Marie's marriage the settlement grew outward. Positioned between New France and New England made Acadia the subject of disputes and attacks. It received little help from France and the Acadians still continued to trade with New England, although it was forbidden to do so.
After French attacks on New England in 1690, in retaliation the English captured and plundered Port Royal. The Port Royal Acadians swore an oath of allegiance to England to avoid further persecution. It was around this time that Jean Pitre died. His widow's second husband was presumably a recent arrival, as he did not appear in the 1686 census. The family continued to live in Port Royal, though by the early 1690's the families of the two elder daughters had moved south to Port Razoir. Over the next 16-17 years sporadic attacks from New England occurred at Port Royal, Minas and Beaubassin, while the children Claude, Marc, Jean, Francois, Marguerite and Jeanne started their own families. Most stayed in the Port Royal area, except Jean who went north to Cobequit. Marie was about 62 when she died the day after Christmas in 1707. Francois Robin had died 14 months before. The end of French control of this part of Acadia was only a few years away.
Theories of Jean Pitre’s origin
According to the declaration at Belle-Île-en-Mer by his grandson Claude Pitre, the pioneer of the Acadian Pitre family is of Flemish origin. However, Père Clarence d'Entremont believes that it is "more likely that he was English" (Histoire du Cap-Sable), according to a report in An Account of the Customs and Manners of the Micmakis and Maricheets (published London 1758), "where it is said that Peters, a toolsmith in England... was of English origin." Excerpt from Dictionnaire Genealogique Des Familles Acadiennes (Stephen A. White), original in French. This mention of a blacksmith named John Peters in Acadia who came from England and the 1671 census showing Jean Pitre as a specialized sort of metalworker raises the theory of this being the same man. Stephen White says, "While there is no proof that the blacksmith and the edge-tool maker were one and the same, there is no real contradiction in supposing that they might have been, inasmuch as there were many Flemish artisans in England during the middle part of the seventeenth century, and one of them might have chosen to emigrate to Acadia sometime after the English capture of the colony in 1654."
The publication, fully entitled, 'An Account of the Customs and Manners of the Micmakis and Maricheets Savage Nations, Now Dependent On The Government Of Cape-Breton' was from an original French manuscript letter written by a French Abbot. The Abbot was lived as a missionary for many years in Nova Scotia. He says in his letter that 'Except a few families from Boston or New England I could never learn there were above three of purely British subjects, who also, ultimately conforming both in the religious and civil institutions to the French, became incorporated with them. These families were the Peterses, the Grangers, the Cartys. These last indeed descended from one Roger John Baptist Carty, an Irish Roman Catholic. He had been an indented servant in New England, and had obtained at length his discharge from his master, with permission to remain with the French Acadians for the freer exercise of his religion. Peters was an iron-smith in England, and together with Granger, married in Acadia, and was there naturalized a Frenchman. Granger made his abjuration before M. Petit, secular-priest of the seminary of Paris, then missionary at Port-Royal (Annapolis). These and other European families then soon became united with the French Acadians, and were no longer distinguished from them.'
Or was Jean Pitre really Jan Pietr from Holland? Leopold Lanctot theorizes that in about 1656 Jean emigrated to the American colonies founded by the Dutch, either to Fort-Orange (Albany, NY), or New Amsterdam (New York, NY). England had seized Acadia in 1654, renamed it New Scotland, and sent an expedition led by Sir Thomas Temple which arrived there on 1st May 1657. When war broke out between England and Holland in 1664, Bostonians seized Fort Orange and New Amsterdam. Temple then recruited the Dutch colonists for his new seignory, supposedly including Jan Pietr. (There is no list of settlers from this expedition but the timing allows for the possibility.)
Another theory of Jean's origins appeared in The History of St. Anthony's Parish 1803-1980 (which includes the descendants of Jean Pitre in Prince Edward Island, most of whom have taken the name Peters). This account would have him in Permambuco, Brazil and escaping the Dutch wars in South America by hopping a schooner to Acadia.
Excerpt from 1984 letter from Stephen White to Leo F. Peters: “The best direct evidence of Jean Pitre’s parentage and origin would have been the record of his marriage to Marie Pesseley. Without that one will have to be very lucky indeed to trace him in Europe, even with the area of research narrowed to Flanders. Even if you found a Jean Pitre born in Flanders in 1636, it would be impossible to be sure he was the same Jean Pitre who settled in Acadia without some positive evidence making the connection, such as a record showing his departure for Acadia. Such a record might be almost anywhere, if it exists at all.”
He could have arrived in Acadia in 1666 on Le Saint Jean Baptiste from France to New France (Quebec), listed as Jean Pitran. His name may have originally been different from what we have in the 1671 census. But whatever his origins, there are today thousands of descendants across Canada, America and France who all trace their way back to Jean Pitre of Acadia.
Last updated: 13 March 2011